BY KUNLE SOLAJA
Nigeria’s national football team, the Super Eagles, who like the Biblical Noah’s weary dove that soared the earth around but not finding a resting place above and had to return to the Ark, have also returned to their traditional ground, Lagos.
According to This Day newspaper, the president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Amaju Pinnick on Thursday, confirmed Lagos as the permanent home ground of Super Eagles.
The city of aquatic splendour has been the home ground of the national team since their first home game of 20 October 1951 when they thrashed Ghana (then Gold Coast) 5-0 at the Association Ground, the present day Mobolaji Johnson Arena at Onikan.
But since the Super Eagles’ 1-0 defeat of Zambia in a drab Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match of 13 January 2001, the Super Eagles became nomadic, searching endlessly, a comfortable nest.
Before then, Lagos, with its vociferous crowd and immense football supporter ship, has been a slaughter slab for many visiting African teams.
Even the legendary Samuel Eto’o in an interview recalled his goals against Nigeria at the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations, claiming that to score against Nigeria at the ‘sacred’ Surulere ground was not a mean achievement.
Little wonder the excitement that followed the return of Super Eagles to Lagos in the last match day of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
It was aptly dubbed: ‘Football Returns Home’. It now appears to have marked the end of nomadic nature the team assumed having to play home matches in Calabar, Port Harcourt, Asaba, Benin and Kaduna among others, abandoning the tradition of great team like England who have Wembley as their traditional home ground.
The Super Eagles will begin the qualifying campaign for one of the five African slots to the next FIFA World Cup in Qatar this June and this means that Teslim Balogun Stadium which played host to the 3-0 drubbing of Lesotho will stage the opening match against Lone Star of Liberia.
Other teams in Group C are Central African Republic and Cape Verde.
“Yes our return to Lagos is good for the players and the NFF as well going by logistics and within the next 10 days, we will conclude the ‘Memorandum of Understanding with Lagos State Government and this will lay to rest the idea of movement around the country”, This Day quoted Pinnick as saying.
“The players and the coaching crew are pleased with the excellent football pitch and this alone is a major factor and when we look at other logistics we need to put in place before any international match, Lagos venue comes handy.
“We want to have a hitch free qualification matches and that is not to take away the fact that Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Delta, Kano, Edo, Kaduna and Cross River that have hosted the team before now have no place in the history of the success of Super Eagles,” he explained.